Friday, October 16, 2009

Interview with Nicholas Hollan, Democratic Candidate for Cincinnati City Council

Nicholas Hollan is a lifelong Cincinnatian and a Democrat running for Cincinnati City Council. Nicholas currently works for the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Red Cross as the Community Outreach/Disaster Services Coordinator and is endorsed by the Hamilton County Democratic Party, the Cincinnati Women's Political Caucus and the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers. You can listen to a previous interview that Hollan gave the Cincinnati Beacon by clicking here and you can visit Hollan's website by clicking here.

CB: What is your position on ordinance 910-23, Cincinnati’s “anti-marijuana ordinance”? Should it stay on the books, or be repealed—and why?

NH: I would push to repeal this inappropriate and unnecessary ordinance that results in non-violent offenders overcrowding limited jail space.

CB: You state on your website that: "What I have observed, all too often, is that our responses are reactionary. For our city to move forward, we must together and proactively address the root causes of the pressing issues we face." Can you describe ways in which you believe City Council has acted in ways that are reactionary to problems that face Cincinnati?

NH: One area of reaction that recently dominated the press was the proposed police layoffs.

While I believe that maintaining public safety is one of the most important functions of local government, I also think it is right and just to question how money is being spent. We are currently spending over $100 million on policing which essentially, reacts to crime and deters crime through the threat of imprisonment. Unless something changes, we are going to be spending $110 million in five years and $120 million in ten. I intend to work to break this cycle by proactively focusing on those root causes that initially lead people down this path: job training, education and healthcare. As more individuals achieve self-sufficiency, crime will diminish as will the request for federal, state and local assistance. Everyone wins in this scenario.

We should remember to fund the police to the best of our ability but not forsake those programs necessary to lessen their workload.

CB: You state on your website that you want to work with community councils to create a long-term vision for each of Cincinnati's neighborhoods. How do you plan to create a meaningful dialog with all 52 community groups?

My professional background is in human services but I can’t go into anyone’s neighborhood and tell the residents how I am going to fix them. The first step is reaching out to every community and listening, more than speaking, to truly understand the concerns of residents for their neighborhood. By collaborating with all of the stakeholders in each community and obtaining their buy-in, priorities can be established and a vision set forth.

Creating this type dialogue with all 52 neighborhoods is an enormous, yet necessary task. To accomplish this and my other objectives, I will serve Cincinnati residents as a full-time council member. A part-time representative will only produce part-time results. I believe the people of Cincinnati deserve elected officials who will make public service their top priority.

CB: You have stated that you want to encourage people to move into Cincinnati by elevating the quality of life. If you are elected to council, what is the first step that you would pursue to elevate the quality of life in the city?

NH: With the city facing a $50 million deficit next year, I believe the first step for all council members should be delving deeply into the budget to ensure that it is balanced while still meting out city services as easily and as efficiently as possible.

The point of contention will be what constitutes a core city service. I don’t want to live in a city where the only service offered is policing. Cincinnati boasts a renowned performing and fine arts community, a dedicated green initiative and a focus on providing our residents with a minimum level of care through human service programs. We need to find the funding to support these crucial life enhancing opporunities.

As your councilmember, I intend to work closely with all elected officials both in the city and county to ascertain cost cutting opportunities like the group purchase of salt. I think it is also important to point out that this level of focus on cost saving measures should be a basic function for stewards of taxpayer dollars and conducted when the economy is strong as well as weak.

CB: Do you support the local NAACP’s frequent petition drives, or do you think that organization is abusing City government? Please explain.

NH: All citizens have the right to garner signatures and put whatever issue for which they are passionate on the ballot for a public vote. However, I do feel this is a tool that is best used in moderation.

I am concerned that repeated use of these ballot referendums take us down a perilous path towards the California model of slow, ineffective government.

Local government officials are elected to make key decisions on behalf of all residents. If people disagree with the direction of leadership then they have the opportunity to remove council and replace them with candidates who more closely align with their particular interest.

CB: As you are probably aware, Celeste Thomas, the daughter of Councilmember Cecil Thomas, was recently tased during a traffic stop by Cincinnati Police. This act was quickly labeled as excessive use of force by the Chief of Police. This incident just added to the list of accounts throughout the country of questionable use of tasers. What is your position on the use of tasers by Cincinnati Police?

NH: The incident involving Councilmember Thomas’ daughter was exceptionally unfortunate and I commend the measured response from Councilmember Thomas as well as the swift condemnation of the act by the police administration.

Tasers, providing a non-lethal tool for police officers, are a tremendous asset that doubtlessly saves lives. We as a society authorize our police offers to make split second decisions under extreme stress regarding the use of force. My hope is that officers use force according to the prescribed guidelines and face repercussions when they go outside of accepted practice.

CB: With the debate over health care reform at the forefront nationally, one of your priorities on your website is: "to ensure children in our community are born healthy, are immunized and receive proper health and oral care." How do you plan to ensure that children in Cincinnati are born healthy? Are you implying more of an educational campaign or something more concrete for those who may not be able to afford proper prenatal care?

NH: With the issue of healthcare raging on the national news front, I believe that the need for healthcare reform is clear and immediate.

For proof of this as a concern, I cite our city’s deplorable infant mortality rate. Generally considered a good indicator for the overall health of a community, our children are dying at a rate that is twice the national average.

Certainly an educational program designed to reach at risk mothers is critical in an effort to alter potentially negative behavior and provide information regarding existing healthcare options. I also believe that the existing healthcare clinics must continue to receive the funding they need to operate. We are talking about an at-risk population that is statistically less likely to have a primary care physician, receive pre-natal care or care for the newborn after birth.

While the city as a whole has an infant mortality rate twice the national average, families receiving treatment from the Cincinnati Health Department are below the national average. That type of success must be encouraged and allowed to grow.

CB: Would you support the implementation of a Domestic Partnership registry for the City of Cincinnati, as has been done in places like Toledo and Cleveland? Why or why not?

NH: This is not a gay-rights issue as much as it is a basic issue of equal human rights. I am proud of my endorsement by Equality Cincinnati and support a Domestic Partnership registry as a step toward complete equality for all Americans in the eyes of the law.

This interview is cross posted here.

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